Déjà Vu All Over Again
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I presume this happens to other people... the standard conversation. You know, when your normal way of being provokes predictable comments from the hoi polloi.
I have several of them.
The one where I subvert little girls.
The one where people confuse me with the Amish.
And the one where motorcycle dudes have to comment on me and my bike.
These convos are so familiar that it is like Name That Tune! two notes in and I know where we are going with this. I have learned to play with these chats, seeing how the outcome changes if I change my lines.
In Miracle Motors, there is a classic example of the MotoDudes convo. That time I succumbed to the temptation of a wee bit ó snark. Snark is one of my besetting sins.
Last weekend I had a great Off the Grid ride. One of the things that made it great was that every meal that I took in public, I took at a lunch counter. I don't always want to rub elbows with randomly selected humans, but sometimes I get in the mood. I was in that mood last weekend.
When I was a child, all sorts of people sat at the lunch counter, men, women, working people, old ladies in fancy hats and gloves, kids with enough coinage to get a hand made soda. These days it's hard to get anything more than pie at the counter and mostly men sit there, often old men. Solo women take the booth. So sitting at the counter has become a micro-subversion.
Last week I stopped for the mid-morning, gasoline, pie and coffee break. The gal aimed me at the booth -
"I can sit at the counter?"
"I have plenty of booths, honey, right over here"
"Thanks, I'd like to sit at the counter - these fellows won't mind - I hardly ever throw food."
Two middle age guys look up at me. I put my helmet down on the counter
One guy grins.
"Well! I bet you aren't riding a Goldwing!" Here we go...
"No, and honestly, I wouldn't ride one if you gave it to me for free." (oops, snark)
" Well, then - I don't like you!" He said laughing and turning to the next guy who got up and paid for his pie.
"Well, sir. I am completely ok with your dislike and the side order of judgement. - Mind if I eat pie?" (probably snark) The waitress arrives and chuckles as she pours me coffee.
"Aw, I was just kiddin' - I ride a Goldwing."
"I had guessed that."
I let the silence sit while I got my triple berry heated up. Then I decided to turn this convo for the friendlier.
"I ride a Kawasaki Vulcan 750." I volunteered
"Well, that a nice bike, a good size for .... you" ( a female person)
(swallow snark) "Thanks - I've been riding this bike for 20 years, we are well suited for each other."
"Actually, the Goldwing is so big it's only fit for the freeway - it's not like you can ride it downtown here just for pie. It doesn't actually get out much. Where are you headed?"
"I'm not sure."
He looks perplexed. I explain the off the grid trip, where I go where the wind blows me, sans electronics, and even I don't always know where I will end up." The waitress is back, trying to refill full cups.
"Wow, that sounds like fun, my reckless buddy asked me to ride with him to Reno once, but Jeez, that's too far..."
We bonded by comparing our best and worst weather days. His was a rainy day exploring Mount Saint Helen's after it blew, mine was on Macos Pass in Colorado."
"You used to live in Colorado?"
"Nope, I was on my way to Texas and back." He stares, blankly, checking his mental map.
"So you pretty much don't have any immediate family, do ya?
"Oh, not at all, I am married and have grown kids and a grandchild - I am a regular matriarch."
Now he is looking a little confused. "Does your hubby ride?"
"I am married to a beautiful woman named Alivia." The Waitress is no longer pretending to pour coffee, she's just standing there watching this exchange.
"Well, ok, fine, does your.... does She ride?"
"Yep, but that doesn't change my need for the occasional solo ride - she understands."
Now his tone has changed, he is speaking softer, it's gone from challenge to confessional.
"Honestly, I'm jealous. My wife would never tolerate me going off by myself or going farther than a day ride."
"That's tough, I bet your Goldwing is missing you. You know, I never have asked permission, but it is important to have a blessing. Sometimes you have to earn that blessing."
"When do you have to be home?"
"Monday morning - I have to be at work."
"What do you do?"
"I'm the vice principal of an alternative high school - And on Sundays I am a Quaker minister..."
And then the traditional silence ensued.
St. Orville's Day
August 13th is St Orville's Day.
I believe deeply in keeping your own calendar.
It should be populated with saints and commemorations.
Orville, my father. In his youth he was wild and reckless. It is a multiple miracle that he lived to procreate. As an adult he was steady, and funny, and observant. He had no cusswords that anyone else would recognize. He never hit a child, or a woman. In the 48 years I knew him I never heard him raise his voice, or use a racial slur, or treat any human as anything less than fully human. He was crazy about our mother. In old age he liked to prank nurses. He was musical and painted. He was an amateur botanist, geologist and astronomer.
Appropriate ways to celebrate St Orville's Day.
My writing career is now old enough to get a driver's license...
In the Spring of 1998 I took a little motorcycle ride. To San Antonio, Texas and back. It was fun. I had some interesting experiences there and back again. I did not have the good sense to shut up about it.
My friend Marge Abbott started pestering me about writing the stories down. As Christmas rolled around I decided to write the story and make a few copies for my nearest and dearest as Christmas presents. My daughter Emily, a senior in high school, did the interior design and the cover for what became Extreme Unction: Christ and the lure of the open road. I was fond of the cover then and and still am today. I made the books at LazerQuick. The first run was about 20. The recipients were not discreet enough to keep it to themselves.
I made a batch of a hundred, and asked for money. I figured that would dry things up. Then I made another hundred, or two. Then I got tired of that and refused to make any more.
Barclay Press publisher, Dan McCracken, and one of his board members took me to breakfast at the Donald Cafe, and told me that it was good. And with work, publishable. But not by Barclay Press, because motorcycle travelogues were not really their thing.
At their insistence I put together a book proposal, which was ignored by many. I was relieved.
I was doing more preaching, and I never write sermons down before the speaking of them - very bad juju. But people thought I did, and kept asking for the messages. Bob Rodriguez, editor of a small town newspaper, offered to edit them if I would try and write them down after the fact. Marge thought this was a good idea. Alivia helped me print and mail them out.
Then I ran off to Africa, which generated a couple more stories.
I tried the blogging thing, which had the advantage of not involving late night runs to LazerQuick.
In the winter of '06 Pamela Calvert forwarded me a call for writers. United Press International wanted a broad spectrum of weekly religion writers for a spirituality page to appear on line. I sent them a column-length piece, expecting to be ignored. Within 24 hours I heard from Larry Moffitt, VP UPI. I had a gig.
I tried running off to Africa again, but Larry just sent me off with press creds, and I posted from the field.
When I had two years of columns done, I quit. But 100 columns makes a pretty good book, so I had it printed up by a real printer. Batches now came 250 at a time. I think I did it three times.
People said they wanted more about Africa - so I did one about that.
I tried making a book of ten years of sermons. Alvia painted me a very pretty cover for that. But people like motorcycle and war zone stories better than Gospel sermons and that one did not sell as well.
So I ran off to Africa Again.
When the 15 year anniversary of the Texas ride rolled around, I thought I might re-issue it. Now I had a day job, and some spare change, so I hired and editor and a designer. Kathy Hyzy, is pretty good at the double-dare-ya thing. She challenged me to make it much bigger than a one-ride-story. She dared me not just to write about weird stuff and my courage in face of it, but to actually tell the truth about the source of my courage. The whole thing got out of control.
Now I have a Summa Theologica Motorcyclica on my hands.
And yeah, its got the 1998 story, and a bunch of those columns and blog posts. But it has a whole lot of stuff I have never had the nerve to write before. And now it seems to have a story line under and through all the other stories that is much more important than the stories. Its got subtext - geez, when did that start to happen?
And now I can do it print-on-demand, and you can get it at any real bookstore, if you know what to ask for, or that under-cutting, on-line, behemoth that starts with an A.
And it makes me a little nervous.
But the cover's pretty, don't you think?
(I still like Emily's)
If it gets too big, I'll be picking up my mail in Bujumura.
I am blogging mostly at Unction.org - these days - and yes, you can order a book there if you really want to... sheesh